Problematic Mobile Phone Use by Hong Kong Adolescents

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Original languageEnglish
Article number551804
Journal / PublicationFrontiers in Psychology
Online published15 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020



Background: Recently there have been growing concerns about problematic mobile phone use by adolescent populations. This study aimed to address this concern through a study of severity and correlates of problematic mobile phone use with a sample of Hong Kong adolescents.
Methods: Data were collected from a sample of adolescents from three local secondary schools (ranging from high to low academic achievement levels) using a measuring scale (PCPU-Q, Yen et al., 2009) designated for Chinese adolescents. Participants were allocated into groups of “problematic users” and “non-problematic users” based on the number of occurrence of symptoms due to excessive and maladaptive use of mobile phone and possible functional impairments caused by problematic mobile phone use. A group of “at-risk users” was identified. A sample-based examination on distribution of these three groups of users was conducted via frequency counts and percentage calculation. A series of t-test were performed to make comparisons between “problematic” and “non-problematic” groups on selected personality and health related variable. Risk and protective factors were identified via correlational analysis and logistic regression analysis. 
Results: Under a more stringent cut-off criterion of four or more reported symptoms (out of seven) plus one or more reported functional impairments (out of five), 22.9% of the adolescents participating in this study could be classified as problematic mobile phone users. However, a more lenient criterion (only 4 or more reported symptoms without consideration of functional impairment) reported a substantially more severe prevalence rate (29.3%). A new group of “at-risk” adolescents (6.4%) was identified with such a discrepancy of prevalence rate. Gender difference, some risk and protective factors were also identified for developing this technology-related problem.
Discussion and Conclusions: Adolescents who are vulnerable to suffer from this technology-related problem deserve more attention from helping professionals. Results of this study throw some insights on how to identify problematic mobile phone user applying a criterion-referenced approach. This study echoes a recent call for adopting a developmental perspective in understanding this problem and conducting research in this area. Anchored on present findings, effective interventions to tackle this rising problem among adolescents are suggested.

Research Area(s)

  • Hong Kong adolescents, prevalence, problematic mobile phone use, protective factor, risk factor

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